I caught myself grinning today. Just because.
Not that big of a deal, right? But it was something that was so impossible for me to fathom doing just 5 months ago.
I was trapped in an 8-year spiral of what felt like perpetual retrograde. Deeply unhappy with where it looked like life was going personally, professionally, emotionally, and physically. Every day felt like I was dragging my own corpse through the motions. I was quite literally the kid with the black cloud raining on her wherever she went. I was working on projects where I felt I wasn’t appreciated or needed. I was subjected to horrid cultural norms that frowned on recognition, support, or uplift. Miscast in some roles that made it feel like my true creativity was dying on the vine. Having the dreaded Sunday night anxiety to start the week again. Every morning was a forced exercise to log on and participate. A great majority of the time I spent feeling like Marshawn Lynch… “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” It was breaking me… but what was worse was the example was I showing my daughter. This horrid lesson of suffering quietly that I’d been taught too young by my own mother who emigrated here and worked two full-time jobs until there was nothing left of her. I couldn’t let that be the narrative. I refused to teach her that way of life.
I committed to digging myself out of this rut. At the 3-year mark, I started to apply every day for at least one thing. I stopped being too prideful to reach out to people I may have barely known to make a connection around an opportunity. Over the course of 5 years, I applied to over 1,100 opportunities. Received hundreds of form rejections. Had about 70 interviews. Six of those cycles went to the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds. Met with 3 CEOs of companies. Countless “projects” where my ideas were on full display and vulnerable to theft. So close to landing it I could taste it. And then they’d pivot.
“Sorry – the hiring manager you were working with left the company. We’re going to reassess this process.”
“We’re reviewing the role anew. Can we keep your resume on hand in case we’d like to call you back in?”
“There’s been a shift in the strategy. Sorry.”
“You’ve really got what we need, unfortunately, your asking price really isn’t in our budget.”
Or I was simply ghosted.
Then in August of 2021, my husband suffered a stroke. 46 years old. I’ve known him for 20 years and not a day would go by that he didn’t work out. Never smoked. Never drank or did drugs. His vice is watching wrestling and the occasional snickers bar. A total anomaly – it wasn’t a blockage – it was atherosclerosis – the narrowing of a single artery near the median of his brain, and then it widened right back up. I’m not sure I can even really articulate what the next 4 months were like. When I think back on it all I feel is darkness. I must’ve gone into autopilot. Doing what was needed for my husband. Doing what was needed for my daughter. Still checking the boxes at work to the best of my ability. Barely caring for myself. But still thinking about the future – knowing that all states are transient. And continuing to apply to just one thing… every day.
In November of 2021, I got into 3 separate interview cycles simultaneously. I was cautious not to get my hopes up too high. I couldn’t afford that emotional investment just to be dashed again. My stability was frail in that arena. I wasn’t sure what to think about my future. Is it the 3 whammies against me: Woman, Black and Experienced? Is it the market? I’d log on right here and wish countless colleagues and acquaintances well in their new endeavors. I’d review and re-review and triple review my resume and cover letters. What was I doing wrong? When might it be my turn?
My husband’s recovery was taking shape and he was truly making leaps and bounds. I’d regularly get in reports that validated why some other opportunities didn’t work out – buyouts, companies folding, change in vision that would have severely impacted how I would have worked for them. “Dodged bullets” as my brother would say. And being in 3 separate cycles that were taking a bit longer because of the holidays didn’t feel so bad. I felt wanted. It boosted my confidence. Maybe I did have something real to offer.
All three of those interview cycles resulted in offers. All three of them. Just like that – it was suddenly my choice on how to move up out of this place in life where I thought I’d be stuck forever. I accepted the new position in April. I’m properly seated in that position: one that utilizes my full brain and calls for all my creativity. I’m fully exhausted at the end of the day but in the best possible way. I have a cadre of teammates who see me and hear me and respect my expertise, and I theirs. I brainstorm on things for work well after the sign-off hour. The world has color. I feel fulfilled. I want to dedicate as much time to extolling how happy this change has made me as I did expressing how sad I was for so long. Because this too is transient… but I promise you I’m soaking every single drop of this up.
There is something to be said for hope. But hope without work is nothing. Do one thing every day that looks to your future – no matter what condition your life is in. One thing.
It will be worth it.